Are You Grooming The Woolly Mammoth?

Grooming the Woolly Mammoth

-The below┬áinvited speech was given by Oliver Laasch at the Academy of Management session titled ‘Management Education for Responsibility and Ethics: An International Perspective’. An audio file of the presentation is available when clicking here.-

“May I introduce Manfred. Manfred here enjoys ice ages, as they go well with his woolly fur. He weights about 6 tons and stands about 3.5 meters tall.

Manfred is a self-interested rational profit maximizer. He continuously seeks competition as it is the only way he can socialize with his peers. He has endless resources and can grow infinitely on a finite planet. He orients all his actions toward shareholders as they are Manfred’s primary stakeholder group.

There is just one problem with Manfred. He shouldn’t exist. Manfred is a woolly mammoth that should have been hunted to extinction by humankind 14000 years ago. He doesn’t fit into an age of global warming of entangled environmental crises and human suffering.

Yet here he is gorgeous as ever because I am talking him into existence… Grooming the woolly mammoth in the room and putting lipstick on that 6 tonnes pig. What I really should be doing would be to gang up with a couple of you folks and hunt him and his entire species to extinction.

I strongly believe that Manfred is still in the world and in close to every classroom in our business schools because we continuously talk him into being. Year after year, tens of thousands of us teach millions of future business people how to act as if Manfred was still alive. And surprise, they join the many more millions of business school graduates already enacting Manfred, refreshing their memory of the myth of Manfred and of how to keep him alive.

Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, performativity, ontological politics or communicative constitution. We as academics in business schools do not only research and teach about economic reality, we also create and recreate this reality. So how about we stop grooming the woolly mammooth and start telling a new story.

A story of a fantastic beast that serves all people and the planet. An animal that interacts in cooperation and to the benefit of a well-balanced set of stakeholders? This beast is a social animal motivated by reciprocity and mutual benefit. It harmonically blends into the cycles of nature. This incredible beast dies or degrows when it is not needed anymore.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, let’s put Manfred to his well-deserved rest. Let’s explore how to best talk into being this other incredible beast that fits into our times so much better than the woolly mammoth… Thank you.”